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Who Is the Knower of the Empty Mind?
Sally: Dear Ram, I had a great meditation this morning. It was different again to the other “good” ones that I have had, and I’m not sure if I can explain it even though I can normally describe things quite well in writing.
One thing that I was aware of and which I CAN describe is that it felt like my mind was being washed out by a pure light which pretty much filled and surrounded my whole head. It was beautifully clear and purifying, gently permeating everything – coming through in waves but with an aspect of it that was just present without movement. I guess it was just a lot of sattvic energy. Definitely very nice!!!
To be honest, I wasn’t making much of an enquiry, as I was just so relieved to be experiencing this that I let myself enjoy it for the time being.
Ram: This is good. Don’t worry about the self-inquiry. This letter is your self-inquiry. It is going on. Just enjoy the experience. You need relief. If you start to get off on the wrong track, I’ll let you know. It might be interesting to ask who let “who” enjoy.
Sally:I was also quite aware of a lovely sensation in my heart centre – not a radiating one, but one that seemed to be quite small and contained.
The other part is the part I can’t really describe… just a sense of presence permeating and surrounding me. I think maybe it was a different manifestation of the silence/space that I “normally” perceive inside: It was… well, presence. And it felt like the presence was too big for my body. I didn’t know where it ended, somewhere just outside my body. I guess it relates to the “presence” that I have felt about me. Maybe it permeated inwards rather than being around me?
So in your opinion, that was the self? I honestly didn’t consider that! I think, firstly because it seemed to be “outside” me, and I thought obviously it can’t be the self, which must be inside me… whereas this feels more like an outside presence. So that’s what made me
think of a spirit guide or something. (Mind you, if I close my eyes and let myself fall still, it feels more like it’s MY presence compared to when I’ve got my eyes open and doing things.)
Ram: The way these subtle experiences are coming and the degree of your self-awareness makes me think that you have more sattva than you think.
It is the self because there is nothing but the self, but you are correct in calling it a “manifestation of the silent space I normally perceive inside.” That silent space inside is the self in the form of sattva, the pure mind. In this case, it was the chitta, the “stuff” of which the subtle body is made, which permeates the physical body and extends out from it some “distance.” In fact it is neither “inside” nor “outside.” It seems have a locus because you are thinking of yourself as the body. It is not in the body. The body is in it. Sally is in it.By “in it” I mean that it is the awareness of the body. The body and Sally are objects in awareness.
Now, here is the sixty-four-dollar question, one to think about: Who perceived it? Or how did “you” perceive it? And the answer is, “I perceived it.” Okay, now who is this I? Is it Sally? Yes. But is it only Sally? No. It is the awareness of Sally as she perceives it. This is how you know what Sally, a subtle concept in awareness, experiences/knows. This awareness is the self. It is the experience, but it is not only the experience. Without it, there is no one there to have the experience.
Some people don’t have the subtle kind of mind you do, so they will see it as a spirit guide. There are no spirit guides as external entities hovering around – except people like me. The self is the spirit guide.
Sally: I’m still very aware of it; it’s kind of an odd sensation. It’s almost heavy… not in a tamasic way of course (inside I feel VERY light and energetic)… but as if I have accrued an extra body of energy around me, or indeed so many layers wrapped around me that it becomes like a perceptible energy field… almost dense/palpable, like when you sense a storm coming… suddenly you KNOW that thunder and lightning are on the way – that electrical charge is in the air. Well, it’s not REALLY like that, but I’m having trouble describing it adequately, and there is a subtle aspect of that description that does feel right.
Ram: See how compassionate the self is, Sally? It knew it was going to wake you up, and it made you read this little ad and come to India to meet someone who could help you make sense of it. Imagine the confusion if this reawakening happened out of the blue as it sometimes does.
Sally: Another analogy is that it’s like when you wrap a shawl around you. The extra weight isn’t unpleasant – not especially noticeable in the grand scheme of things, but definitely there. Only this isn’t up against my skin like a shawl would be… just filling up my aura or something.
Ram: Good writing, Sally.
Sally: Are you SURE it’s the self?! I definitely seem to have much more presence about me (and this morning, IN me) is all I know.
Ram: Any other ideas? This is a non-dual reality, Sally. It’s all the self.
Sally: So why do you think my self has awakened like this? Do you have a “theory”?
Ram: It got tired of sleeping. Who knows? Seriously, you’ve been working on yourself in one way or another for a long time. Scripture says it is the result of punya karmas from previous births. Punya karmas are the unseen results that accrue from meritorious actions. You’re ready, ripe, a refined, pure soul. You’ve been here long enough. Please don’t take this as my ego speaking, but you don’t meet people like me by accident. You have to be ready. It’s part of the Divine Plan.
Sally: And another question I have is, if nothing affects the self, why does It have a trigger to be activated, if you see what I mean? Why does it bother? As we discussed before, I sort of feel that this whole coming-to-earth thing must be like a “game”… but considering that even the tiniest recognition of the self must in effect come from the self anyway, it seems that there must be a kind of trigger somewhere along the line that doesn’t quite relate to sitting down and deciding to ask yourself, “Who am I?” Surely the switch must be activated before the interest in “Who am I?” begins.
Ram: Good, Sally. Got it in one. Please don’t let this go to your head, but you are brilliant.
It is a game. The technical term is “lila,” the play of consciousness. The self is compassionate. It knows that everything is it. So when one part of it pretends it doesn’t know who it is, and this part suffers from it, wants out and does something to get the self’s attention, the self comes to the rescue. If you aren’t happy and you don’t make any effort to get out of your state, the self, which is non-coercive, assumes that you are happy in your misery and lets you be. But
when you invoke the self through your actions – yoga, trips to India, emailing mahatmas, prayer, meditation, etc. it knows you are serious and gets to work.
Sally: One thing that occurs to me is that for a few years now (with very on/off results) I have spent a lot of time trying to be present – to be aware of what goes on inside me.
Ram: This is what I said above – before I read this. It has to be that way. This sort of awakening takes a long time to break into full consciousness. It was the self that started you off on that idea.
Sally: This hasn’t been in the directed but more natural manner that I have been carrying out lately, but I have definitely been wanting to understand myself as a spiritual being for many years. Of course this has often been in a completely misguided way and without “good results”… but the attempt has been there nonetheless, and perhaps that effort to be aware of my thoughts and emotions has put me in good stead for actual “deliberate” self-enquiry?
Ram: Yes, absolutely.
Sally: It’s definitely not hard for me to be self-aware (I won’t say Self-aware)… I have been doing that for years, though essentially it hadn’t helped me to improve my spiritual knowledge (when I look at it now) and clean up my emotional/mental state.
What is the self?
Ram: The self is your awareness, Sally. It is your awareness minus your feelings and emotions. You can’t really be aware of awareness, because you are awareness. What makes you aware of your thoughts and feelings is you. This is why you are already enlightened.
The only “spiritual” knowledge is self-knowledge, Sally. All the rest is just knowledge.
Sally: BUT now I have the understanding to make sense of the self-awareness, and put it to good use… because it’s MORE than just self-awareness with a small “s.”
Sally: I’m sure that happened from the time that we had dinner that first night in Tiruvannamalai. When we were talking, something in my understanding of things was going click, click, click into place, and I’m positive that was the beginning of the unfoldment. That and all the other experiences in India which amplified/enhanced the understanding process. Previous to Tiru, I think it was just the atmosphere of India helping me to become more sattvic/relaxed.
Ram: This is correct, Sally. I am the self. I knew why you came. You were hungry and I fed you.
Sally: The other thing that occurs to me: Are you sure that this isn’t all just some kind of sattvic experience rather than experiences of the self? I suppose that sounds a big negative, but I’m just wondering because it did occur to me.
Ram: Sattvic experiences are the self. Experience takes place in the mind. The mind free of rajas and tamas is sattvic. The mind is the self as chitta, subtle particles of awareness. The only way “you” can “experience the self” is through sattva, Sally. I’ve attached a recently-written pamphlet, What Is Advaita Vedanta? That should help in clearing up your thinking on this issue. It is a very subtle point and if you have difficulty we can discuss it further. But yes, you are right insofar as the self is the awareness of any experience. The self was right there illumining the thoughts in your mind as you wrote this and it is right here now as you read it. It is you.
Non-Duality and Violence
Sally: I can’t help but wonder: If everything is One, then what is the difference between pulling a lettuce out of the ground and killing a fish? Is the violence that we perceive merely a case of a degree according to how we view the object we are intending to eat? I wonder if the more a creature resembles us as humans the more we identify with it, and perhaps that’s where the whole issue of killing and eating animals really stems from… they have eyes like we do, and blood, etc.
Ram: I’m with you on this issue 100 percent. It’s not violence if you do it as karma yoga. Everything is already dead, including what we think of as “ourselves.” People are sentimental, attached to their bodies, lacking in discrimination.
Sally: Evidence from some quarters suggests that plants do actually have a nervous system of some kind, and can experience pain. Some people laugh at that concept, and when I have said to people, “I feel more compassion about pulling a lettuce out of the ground than
eating fish,” they looked at me as if I was completely nuts (don’t ask me why I’m not overly compassionate about fish, but to be honest, I’m not). Why shouldn’t a plant be as important as an animal, even though it’s less like us, i.e. it doesn’t move about, doesn’t have a face and arguably has a lesser degree of consciousness…
Ram: It has the same degree of consciousness, i.e. self. Its subtle body (probably what you mean by “consciousness”) is just very rudimentary.
Sally: …and has a more delicate, subtle, energy/body nature that makes it seem less “alive”?
Ram: No. Its subtle body is grosser than that of a human being. It only responds to the gross elements. It seems less alive because its subtle body is less developed. If the subtle body were more developed, it would have a more complex nervous system and would “feel” things like we do. But it does respond to certain vibrations. I recall some research in the sixties that involved tomato plants and music. The ones that got positive, healing-type music thrived, and the ones that got ugly, demonic music wilted and died.
Sally: It’s just as important in the grand scheme of things as everything else.
Ram: Sure is.
Sally: Well, I didn’t mean to email you back so soon with so much! But it looks like I did anyway. I really do hope it’s not too demanding of me!!!
Ram: Not at all. I’m enjoying this. I’m not doing anything anyway, except reading and lounging around on my veranda looking at the mountain. I stopped the satsangs and am getting prepared to leave.
Sally: I will have a good think about all the suggestions you have made… I think that having an idea of how to proceed… having a goal of some kind in terms of the homoeopathy/spending time in India/money/getting out of London, etc. would be an excellent idea. I know these issues sort of run around in the back of my mind sometimes, but addressing it fully would be another matter!
Ram: Good. Too much stuff has built up. It’s causing stress and confusion. You need to simplify. Take charge of your destiny, Sally. You are the mistress of the whole universe. The sun, moon and stars shine only because of you.
~ Much love, Ram